When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. We’re ready! Teachers have been and continue to be around us all of the time.
In the early 1950s, teachers were often contained within a small box in the living room. Of course, we’re talking about the newly minted Zenith TV set. Aside from family and close friends, our early influencers and heroes often arrived via the flickering black and white screen. Animation was reserved for Saturday morning cartoons, so during the week, we watched other role models. Truth be told, much of our character and many values came from popular figures like Andy Griffith, Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers. To help guide us through our family dynamics, we watched Ozzie and Harriett Nelson, June and Ward Cleaver (Leave It to Beaver), Margaret and Jim Anderson (Father Knows Best), or Steven Douglas (My Three Sons). Although devoid of diversity or feminism, underlying values like honesty, respect, responsibility and family still came through loud and clear.
By the time we reach the ages of two or three, most of us are capable of conceptualizing fundamental values. With each passing year, those values are re-enforced, emphasized and strengthened. The imprint of those early experiences leaves an indelible mark, even if the values morph and change over time.
Recently, our daughter and her family left for a vacation/family reunion in Tennessee. Instinctively, one of us said goodbye with the phrase “Happy Trails,” as a cheerful sendoff. Even if you don’t know where the phrase originated, you would most likely interpret it as “safe travels,” “godspeed” or something like that, which it is. But it’s also so much more.
Upon later reflection, we talked about how that phrase “Happy Trails” so easily rolled off the tongue that day, after so many years. When we were about three years old, we were hypnotized, sitting on the floor in front of the TV with “rabbit ears” on top. We peered into the grainy image on the screen to see Roy Rogers and Dale Evans perched atop their famous horses, Trigger and Buttermilk. They smiled and effortlessly performed one good deed after another with their trusty dog, Bullet always close-at-hand. Their side-kick, Pat Brady sometimes showed-up in a cloud of dust around his old reliable Jeep, Nelly Belle. Once the deeds were done and all was right in the world, Roy and Dale would send us off with their familiar theme song, Happy Trails. Smiling and content, we’d sigh and then patiently wait for the next episode—promised with the line in their song, “until we meet again.“
Roy and Dale delivered such a kind-hearted, values-laden message for impressionable young hearts to hear. They were dependable and generous cow-folks who lived the same values both on and off the screen. Authentic. The real thing. That song was lovingly written by Dale when she thought The Roy Rogers Show needed a theme song, and Dale just showed-up at rehearsal one day with music in-hand and asked everyone to just give it a try. She thought they might like it and they did! From that day on, Happy Trails became an integral part of everything they did together. Long before the idea of marketing a show such as theirs, Happy Trails became their well-known brand—how appropriate for the wild west!
“It’s funny how some words stay in your head,” is a line from a song we wrote back in 2007 called Settle Down. Surely some research has been done to explain those snippets that become loop-tapes in our brains. We’re fortunate to share a history that includes similar experiences and simpler times—nice people who modeled family values, having five children of their own. With an engaging and uplifting message, Happy Trails has become a sweet, value-able reminder of those times and the many good deeds that the “Rogers partners” shared with us—some really great teachers have appeared.
The following video contains footage from the original Roy Rogers Show—introduction and closing song.
Click the following link to hear the fully orchestrated version of “Happy Trails,” with complete lyrics and interesting historical photos.
Historic photos/video courtesy of vintage.es, Getty Images and YouTube—thanks.
Related Music and Story
You might also be interested our musical story called “Settle Down” which deals with similar ideas about how simple words and values can stay with us for an entire lifetime—and how we can spend a lifetime trying to actually live them.